Summary: A sermon about humility.
"Let's Keep the Shepherds in Christmas"
Series: "Christmas: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly"
Pastor Adam Hamilton tells a about a time, years ago, while he was serving as a Youth Director of a Church in Texas, that he took the Youth to do repairs at the homes of two elderly women living in a very run-down South Dallas neighborhood.
Some of the other homes in the neighborhood were boarded up.
Some had been torn down.
Some were drug houses.
Hamilton writes, "These women had lived in this neighborhood for decades, but the world seemed to have forgotten them."
He says that the women were excited when the Youth group arrived, and as they scraped and caulked and painted their homes, they made cookies and lemonade for the kids.
The following Christmas, Hamilton decided to take the kids back to carol for these two women.
The Youth had taken up an offering to give to the women; they collected two hundred dollars for each woman.
They signed Christmas cards and tucked the money inside.
Hamilton writes, "I'll never forget what happened at one of these homes.
We emptied the bus, and 45 Youth stood around the doorstep of Miss Violet's home.
We began to sing, and as we did it seemed the whole neighborhood came outside to see what was happening.
It had been a long time since any of them had seen a caroler on that street.
Miss Violet turned on the front light and slowly opened the door as we sang.
Then one of the Youth stepped forward and presented her with gifts and the card.
The young person said, 'Miss Violet, we came to remind you that God loves you. These gifts are a sign of His love and ours, too. Merry Christmas!!!'"
Hamilton continues, "Miss Violet stood there, dumbfounded.
Her hands shaking, she opened the card and read it, then looked at the money that fell into her hands.
Tears began to roll down her cheeks, and she said in almost a whisper, 'Ever since my husband died, I thought God had forgotten me.
Tonight, you reminded me that He still remembers I'm here.'"
I wonder if that is what the shepherds felt that night that Jesus was born and "a great assembly of the heavenly forces...said, 'Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.'"
These shepherds whom the Lord decided to announce the birth of His Son too...
...These shepherds who were the first people other than Mary and Joseph to see Jesus Christ...
...These shepherds who were the first humans to spread the good news of Jesus' birth were nighttime hired hands.
They were minimum salary shepherds.
They were at the bottom of the social ladder.
They were the poorest of the poor.
They owned nothing, and they were looked down upon by just about everyone.
They were thought to be untrustworthy, and yet God trusted them with the greatest news ever!!!
Knowing all this about shepherds, many people have wondered--over the years--why the angel came to the shepherds first.
Shepherds were considered to be backward and simple.
They were uneducated, unsophisticated, and unclean.
A colleague was in Bethlehem a few years back and was surprised to learn that this is still the way shepherds are perceived among many people even today.
He even met a shepherd and his family who made their living by keeping about a dozen or so sheep in and around Bethlehem.
My colleague asked the shepherd why God chose to invite the shepherds to be the first to see and celebrate the birth of Jesus.
The shepherd responded instantly: "Because Jesus was humble and shepherds are humble."
It is true that the way God chose to come into the world is radical...
...really, really radical!!!
We are so used to the story, that it's easy to forget just how scandalous it is!!!
I mean think about it.
God came into human history completely helpless, as a newborn baby, and was laid in a feeding trough.
From the beginning, God decided to trust ordinary human beings, not only with God's care, but with God's upbringing and from then to now--with God's message!!!
Think about how God could have come into this world.
God could have done it any way God wanted.
He could have come with power, and majesty, born into privilege--a member of the upper crust.
But instead, God was born in a small town, far from the center of power.
God was born to a young, poor couple--peasants really.
The crib was a feeding trough, and the people invited to witness the newborn Savior of the World were shepherds, not kings.
And by entering our world this way, God identified God's self with the powerless, the oppressed, the poor, and the homeless.